We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Black Panther 13, Old Man Logan 22, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17, and Ultimates 2 6. Also, we discussed Mighty Thor 18 on Thursday and will be discussing Hulk 5 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan D: Ok, Black Panther 13, I’m intrigued. Pivoting after the conclusion of “A Nations Under Our Feet”, the next arc, “Avengers of the New World”, raises a new milieu of issues effecting T’Challa and Wakanda. This time, the threat rearing its ugly head comes in the form of vengeful gods from the nation’s past, their arrival heralded by ugly snake-warrior foot soldiers as portals open across Wakanda. While I thought the action scenes were serviceable, I very much value incoming artist Wilfredo Torres’ take on the scenes between T’Challa and Storm.
Torres keeps all of the shots (save the last) as doubles, but moves the camera around, making sure the relationship between the two characters stays central but also visually varied. The scene works visually to characterize the dynamic between the two, while the text delivers essential exposition for the events to come — but all of it is very grounded and decidedly human.
While this new arc promises a bevvy of ancient deities returning to reclaim what was once theirs, I find the psychological underpinnings of the titular character most fascinating. While writer Ta-Nehisi Coates previously explored how the modern African navigates traditions of old which make up the fabric of cultural identity, I appreciate how this theme deepens as T’Challa, one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe, reconciles his intellect and love of science with his religious and spiritual side. I feel like that dissonance between head and spirit is one with which many readers can relate. Personally, growing up very religious in a small town, then going off to study then into the world, I can feel the dissonance between my religious upbringing and my intellectual understanding of the world as an adult, and I’m very keen to see how the series will handle that dilemma within the Panther.
I’ve always been curious about how characters — or specifically, the average citizens — in the Marvel Universe handle their faith in a world populated by Übermensch and gods from various pantheons (as was briefly explored about a year ago by a character in the Vote Loki series), so I feel like there is some real potential here amongst the dust-ups with lizard-people.
Old Man Logan 22
Drew: In my writeup of Old Man Logan 21, I described the current “Past Lives” arc as “a kind of abridged history of Wolverine, hitting some familiar moments, but not really bringing anything new to them.” That characterization still applies to issue 22, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the point. That is, perhaps the nostalgia-at-the-cost-of-narrative tenor of this issue isn’t an accident, but a commentary on the state of superhero comics.
Writer Jeff Lemire has proven himself to be rather daring in revising history (his Animal Man springs immediately to mind), which makes the “you can’t change the past” mechanic here stand out. Obviously, the rules of Marvel continuity means Logan can’t change the past, but the choice to take him on this tour, in spite of the narrative stakes suggests that “narrative stakes” can’t really be the goal.
Artist Eric Nguyen ably lends himself to this kind of non-revisionist revisiting, picking up on Andrea Sorrentino’s signature hard shadows, but softens them with feathering and drybrush effects, finding a kind of happy medium between Sorrentino’s style and those of the classic comics this issue is riffing on.
The effect is a story frozen in amber, entirely untouchable, even as the world changes around it. As an issue, it’s not the most satisfying, but as a commentary on the nostalgia-heavy way superhero comics are created, consumed, and talked about, it’s perfect. That may be giving this creative team too much benefit of the doubt — the message certainly doesn’t need a whole arc to come across — but it’s the only reading I could come up with that didn’t leave this issue feeling totally boring.
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17
Ryan M: After the catharsis of last issue, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17 feels like an epilogue. That’s not a problem when the world and characters are so charming. Kate Leth and Brittney Williams have created a world so engaging that “Patsy and her friends go the Mall” is still a story line I was pretty excited about. Long-running story lines are wrapped up as Patsy finally receives her royalties from Hedy and Jen reaches out. We also see what the newest chapter may look like for Patsy and company. Patsy has been using her positivity and verve to recruit for the good team all along and we see her choose friendship over conflict again with her wayward fans.
Leth gives us everything we love about Patsy and her crew while Williams gets to play around a bit. We see Patsy’s bedroom and a makeover montage complete with several potential Patsy outfits. The page with Patsy’s options is a throwback reminiscent of the original Patsy Walker books. The series has been characterized by the empathy shown to each character, even the ones who try to fight Patsy. Again and again, we see that their actions are a result of some anger, fear or sadness. There is no pure evil in this world. That trend continues with the Walker Stalkers. Once they all sit down to talk out why the girls planned the attack, Ian quickly realizes the truth. This isn’t about Patsy so much as about a young girl with a crush on her best friend. Tom and Ian immediately take her under their wing. It’s reminiscent of Patsy’s behavior throughout the series, starting with Ian. Her compassion has a ripple effect and after all this time, we see how far it has reached. The issue ends with a splash page showing all of the people that Patsy has encountered during the series. Each of them are better off for her knowing her. I feel the same.
Ultimates 2 6
Spencer: Be they animals, inanimate objects, or even abstract concepts, humans have a tendency to ascribe our own traits to decidedly non-human creatures. I suppose this could be chalked up to narcissism, but I prefer to think of it as humanity’s attempt to understand creatures, items, and concepts far beyond their comprehension.
What stands out about The Ultimates 2 6, then, is how Al Ewing and Travel Foreman go out of their way not to humanize the First Firmament, despite its unfathomable cosmic scope. Instead, the Firmament — the very first incarnation of the Marvel Universe, pre-dating even the concept of a multiverse — is defined by how it rejects human traits. As its creations break away and create a multiverse revolving around more “human” features such as mortality, growth, and change (Forman even gives the Multiverse a humanoid appearance), the First Firmament just watches, its hatred festering. It hates everything that makes Eternity and its inhabitants “human,” and will stop at nothing to wipe every last trace of them from existence.
With that in mind, it feels appropriate that the Ultimates’ first major victory against the First Firmament is achieved through the most human methods possible. Spectrum and Blue Marvel’s deep understanding of each other allows them to combine their bodies and strength; The Troubleshooters call on an old friend for help; Anti-Man sacrifices his very life to free Galactus from Logos’ curse.
I don’t know if there’s much more human than Anti-Man’s selfless devotion here.
What Ewing and Foreman do, then, is humanize an otherwise almost unfathomable plot. The First Firmament is no longer a complicated cosmic threat, but a danger to everything that makes us human. That makes the stakes of this arc far more tangible than they were before, and is already providing a lot more heart to a title that, for all its spectacle, can be clinical at times.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?